Heads Carolina, Tails California

After four years of wandering the United States, we purchased property in Southern California for use as our Winter home base. Outdoor Resorts Indio has four hundred and nineteen deeded sites for Class A Motorhome owners. Established twenty years ago, it was started by Marathon Coach, a manufacturer of ultra-high end motorhomes who built a number of resorts to support their coach owners with first class amenities. The demographics here are 30% Canadians with most others hailing from California, Washington and Oregon. Although a non age-restricted resort, we both are among the youngest residents, so HA, as often is the case, I’ve got the hottest wife in the RV park. The resort has an 18 hole Par 3 golf course, one main pool, fitness center, club house and cafe as well as three smaller satellite pools / hot tubs, one being adjacent to our property. It also has six pickle ball courts, two tennis courts and a bocce / lawn bowling area. I’ve always loved to play tennis, racquetball and ping pong and was excited to learn pickle ball. We took an introductory lesson and right away, I knew that it was something I could be competitive at. Lynn went into the lesson openminded and nervous about her skill-set, but came away hungry for more pickle ball and that makes me happy.

This video gives a good sense of this resort…

So, why did we do this, you might ask? And, why in crazy California, you should probably ask? While we will always love Charleston, SC, the influx of new corporations and residents continues to dramatically change the vibe (traffic), the landscape (condos) and the Southern Charm (Yankees, like us). Our November 2022 visit left us surprisingly sad and a bit disillusioned. While we love our healthcare providers, Charleston is a long way from where we have been enjoying RVing. Also, while we love our life of travel, we miss the connections that are difficult with RVing. Essentially, you meet fun people and then you almost immediately say goodbye to them. We are well-connected to our Xscapers RV friends, but our rig (and to some degree, my comfort level) can’t really go off road to some of the places our RV friends go, so we only get to spend a few weeks a year with these people. And, simply put, spending four years in a 400 square foot box with the one you love can still sometimes feel kind of small.

Starting out in 2019, we figured that some day, we might transition into snowbirds, traveling six moths and then staying put six months. We considered whether to stay put in the Summer or Winter and quickly realized that there are far more places to explore in the warmer months than there are in the colder months. Six months into our new lifestyle, we discovered a resort near Gulf Shores, that we fell in love with. But, Bella Terra Resort had a few shortfalls. Alabama is not that warm in the Winter months and the resort was too small to really feel like a new community. Also, being from the East Coast, within a two day drive, there were not that many places that we’d want to visit with Foley, Alabama as our home base. So, we kept looking, while still loving that beautiful Alabama spot. Last year, we looked at Las Vegas Motorcoach Resort as a place to purchase, but while visiting it, discovered that there did not seem to be an active community or many resort events. Both our new ORI property and the Las Vegas property were developed by Marathon and share a similar layout and amenities. We did love that, being Las Vegas, it was close to a world class airport and frankly, just about anything you’d ever want or imagine. Still, I’m not a gambler and was not sure that I’d feel at home in Sin City.

There’s probably a dozen or so swanky motorhome resorts across the country where property can be purchased. Some offer leases and we were not considering those. We preferred not to purchase in an age-restricted resort in order to feel more apart of the demographics. Last year, we rented a lot in Palm Desert, CA, and one day decided to tour two resorts across the street from one another in Indio, 15 miles to the East. Although Motorcoach Country Club, directly across the street from us is clearly the fancier property, it came with some drawbacks….an extra $100k being one of them. Their lots offer wider space and many have personal pools and hot tubs, something we both love. Many lots have casitas (tiny, but fancy living space) and the property is built on a private waterway. So, while people in our resort cruise around on golf carts (bikes for us), across the street, they tool around in small electric boats. The big difference that we noticed though was the sincere friendliness here, versus a more reserved, “My property is fancier than your property vibe” across the street. So, we rented here for a month in January 2023 and decided to look for an available lot.

We quickly settled on making an offer on a beautiful golf course lot, but after speaking to our financial advisor, realized that we’d take a serious tax hit, but also that the income we derived from selling financial assets would eliminate our health insurance credits and raise our premiums by more than you could possibly believe. So, we lowered our budget and found the very unique lot that we made an offer on. Rather than a typical golf course or perimeter lot, ours is tucked inside a curve in the road, giving us a pie shaped lot, with fantastic privacy. Our lot features two outdoor kitchen islands. The larger one contains a dishwasher, oven, fridge, microwave and sink and the smaller one has a huge gas grill and gas burner. While the appliances are older, the prior owners never used them. The grill tools were still sealed in their plastic bags. The main kitchen bar has nine bar stools, two built-in water falls, and accent lighting, covered by a huge umbrella. The sitting area is covered by another huge umbrella and has a couch, two chairs, two ottomans and a fire table. The site has so many accent lights, that it took us a few weeks to figure them all out. The main lights in the ficus trees are made by Govee, and are infinitely customizable via Bluetooth app. We met the sellers as we walked the property and marveled at how well decorated and pristine the lot was kept. When we asked the Realtor exactly what was included, she replied back that the Seller would leave as much as we wanted and the lot would be 100% move in ready. We offered and then made a second offer to their counter offer and it was done. Our HOA fees include water, sewer, 500 Mb/s WiFi internet, golf and other resort activities. Our first months’ electric bill was $130, similar to what we have paid as renters at other long term stays. Property tax is around $800 annually and liability insurance is $400 ish. If we decide to rent our lot, we’d keep all of the $135 / day rate, less $30 to the resort. This is the lowest split we have seen at these types of resorts. Although we kept waiting for something to go wrong, nothing did and we closed on February 8th. That day, I was in Casa Grande, Arizona and Lynn was in the Caribbean on a Mom / Daughter cruise, so we had to wait until February 18th to arrive. I backed it in on the first try, although in the middle of a curve, it looks a bit tricky.

After almost twenty years of high humidity Charleston, desert weather is quite a change. Winter temps are in the 60’s and 70’s during the day and 40’s and 50’s at night with humidity levels below 20 percent. It often feels very warm in the sun, but cool as soon as you reach shade. However, between June and September, average high temps are over 100 with lows around 80. There are only a few people that stay here year round, but it is possible. Our elevation is 30 feet above sea level. A neighbor explained that when it rains, “it rains dirt”. Seemed like an odd statement, but after a day of light showers, it was quite evident that it does, in fact, rain dirt. More like fine particulate, but dirt about covers it.

Below are photos as we pulled into the resort as new owners!

As we considered the cost of moving twelve months a year vs six months moving and six months stationary, I crunched much data. Diesel costs, maintenance, depreciation, campground rentals versus HOA fees, electricity, property taxes etc. Most of the time it came out as about a break even and Lynn and I believe that this Winter home base will likely help us RV longer without getting burned out from 100% life on the road. In the five weeks which we’ve been here, it has been refreshing to not wake up thinking about the next move, the next mountain range to cross, the least expensive fuel ahead. To not have to use a GPS to find the local grocery store, or even back home, is something difficult to translate to non RVers, but it took a toll on me. It’s wonderful to walk outside in the morning and see familiar faces or to ride my bike around and start to feel settled and at home. On Day 2, the hummingbirds showed up and they are eagerly draining my feeder as much as I am eagerly refilling it. We have a few Cactus Wrens, close cousin to the Carolina Wrens I adored in Charleston, but despite my plate of mealworms, they have not dined with me yet. We have some finches, but they ignore my thistle seed socks and strangely, sip at the hummingbird feeder. We have seen mockingbirds, mourning doves and flickers and hope to entice some in for snacks in the future. I also am excited to finally be able to hand feed a hummingbird, but that will likely be this Fall.

Although we do hear some occasional street racer noise, it is amazing how close things are to us. Within literally two miles are Home Depot, Costco, grocery stores, farm stands, pizza, ramen, sushi etc. So, while it could almost be considered urban camping, it is swanky as shit urban camping. We are retaining our Florida residency and plan to be here in California 5-6 months a year. The Palm Springs airport is about 35 minutes away and, like Charleston, offers low fares given its vacation destination status and has a surprising amount of airlines and direct routes.

So, what’s next? Glad you asked. We leave here on April 13 and head North to…….Alaska! Given that the only way to Alaska is through Canada, we are storing unused alcohol with friends, our pew pew’s at a Nevada range / locker and beginning the planning of all the oddities than can not cross into Canada. And, not withstanding the fact that my last blog was about two hundred and twenty days ago, I really have more to write / share. Plenty more crazy travel tales want to be told before being forgotten. I’m also weighing how much to share about my mental health journey and the experience of therapy over the past three years. While I am so worried about coming off as self-important, I sure could have learned a lot if someone shared an experience such as mine. I was a guy that 100% rolled his eyes and shook his head at the value of therapy and mindfulness. Walk it off, Deal with it, Just keep pushing were all easy catchphrases. Now, I’m doing EMDR therapy, something that to me, defies true comprehension and while I know it works….I can’t really explain it to someone. Anyway, for now, I’ll just say that I have learned so much.

Alaska. Being there…Breathing the air…Meeting Alaskans…Learning about their culture…Walking on Alaskan ground…Eating fresh halibut. Alaska was why we retired. To Be There. I hope to take you along on our journey. Finally, after four years….it’s Alaska Or Bust!

I just hope that the sticker we put on the Jeep in 2019 makes it to the border….

Lynn’s Two Cents – Man do I love it here! We have palm trees and beautiful flowers, plus snow capped mountains. We now own a fire pit and an ice maker. Life is good. But the mountains are calling and I must go!

12 Comments on “Heads Carolina, Tails California

  1. Jim/Lynn,

    So good to hear from you and to hear how well things are going. Sounds like you found an amazing location with everything an RV’er could ever want. Congratulations. What a beautiful location and it sounds like your research was perfect. (I’d like to see the spreadsheet you built reviewing the features of every location you considered. LOL) I look forward to hearing about your trip to Alaska, via Canada. It’s a shame that you can’t take your “special items”, including liquor with you. Oh well, you’ll have to drink Canadian Club while you transit the country on the way to Alaska.

    Things on this end are going well, we’re here in Naples until the second week of May, then off to Ocean City for the summer till Oct 1. You always have an open invite to either location if you’re in the hood. Glad all is well and I look forward to the next installment of your journey.

    Be Well,



  2. Your place looks wonderful! Really happy for you guys. Enjoy your time in Alaska.


  3. So glad to hear from you. It is very exciting to follow you and Lynn on your travels. I don’t know if I told you but we sold our property in Florida and moved back to Oklahoma City. Family is here and as Roy and I get older we need family support. Roy is fighting cancer and doing a good job of it. The doctors we have here are so much better than what we had in Florida. Moving was the right choice for us. Enjoy what you have. Hugs, Judy ________________________________


  4. It looks incredible…
    So very happy you have discovered a new path! All the best! 🦋


  5. So happy you have become part of the ORI family. Yes- it is a wonderful place with wonderful people. Glad you are enjoying Pickleball.


  6. Thank you for sharing.. I have missed you! Alaska is a dream that’ll come true eventually 🙂

    Can’t wait to come and visit you soon enough, have you got space for 3?

    I love yous ♡


  7. You guys are such an inspiration! Getting a bit itchy myself.. much light and love to you both


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